The Chinese Spy Balloon Visits Heritage

Heritage Explains

The Chinese Spy Balloon Visits Heritage

Heritage Explains: China | Episode 2

Obviously, the Cold War in which we find ourselves with China is a global event. But it already has a strong impact on our lives right here in the United States. These effects are visible in a lot of ways, which we're going to talk about here today. Some will surprise you, but some will feel familiar, like one from late January of this year. 

Many of our listeners will recall the large balloon that was spotted over the Midwest, and was tracked by the government as it crossed over the United States. Federal officials shot the balloon down when it passed over the Atlantic Ocean on February 4. We now know that this was a Chinese spy balloon carrying sophisticated surveillance equipment, and was actually capable of maneuvering itself. For example, it flew in figure eight patterns over numerous U.S. Military sites. 

On this episode of Heritage Explains, we re-enact this event at Heritage and dig into the other ways that China is involving itself within United States borders. We discuss these issues with China expert Michael Pillsbury.

John PoppFrom The Heritage Foundation, this is Heritage Explains.

Mark Guiney: Welcome back to Heritage Explains. I'm Mark Guiney coming to you from the communications department here at The Heritage Foundation. For those of you who've been following the podcast, you know that we are excited to be continuing our current season of the show. We just switched from a one-off format to a seasonal format, and this is the second of our six episode series on the Chinese Communist Party.

Obviously, the cold war in which we find ourselves with China is a global event, but it already has a strong impact on our lives right here in the United States. These effects are visible in a lot of ways, which we're going to talk about here today. Some will surprise you, but some will feel familiar, like one from late January of this year. Many of our listeners will recall the large balloon that was spotted over the Midwest and was tracked by the government as it crossed over the United States. Federal officials shot the balloon down when it passed over the Atlantic Ocean on February 4th. We now know that this was a Chinese spy balloon carrying sophisticated surveillance equipment and was actually capable of maneuvering itself. It flew in figure eight patterns over numerous U.S. military sites, apparently gathering information.

In order to demonstrate the reaction of the everyday American to this event, we decided to create a small reenactment, by which I mean, we taped a red party balloon to a stick, labeled it as a Chinese spy balloon, attached an audio recorder to a string beneath it and sneakily poked it into the offices of our unsuspecting colleagues. We started with our friends in events.

Events: What is it? What are you doing? Oh, I see. I'm like, what is it? The Chinese five balloon is here at Heritage? Is he recording? What are they recording? All our conversation.

Guiney: Folks of the Daily Signal got a little aggressive.

The Daily Signal: How mad would you get if I just punctured this balloon right now?

Guiney: No, I've worked on this for a long time. No, no, no, no, no. At the Me Center, someone pulled out a Nerf gun. Heritage Action had to make it political.

Heritage Action: I can't shoot it down till it's past my desk.

Guiney: And Senior Fellow Mike Gonzalez didn't take us very seriously.

Mike Gonzalez: What are you wasting my [inaudible 00:02:45]? I have work to do.

Guiney: It's for Heritage Explains.

Gonzalez: Oh, sorry. This is great.

Guiney: All kidding aside, for many Americans, this move by the CCP was shockingly bold. The Heritage Foundation's own Michael Cunningham related his take on this to the Daily Signal in an email. He said, "We've always known that the CCP spies on us, and I don't think anyone serious bought into Beijing's claim that it was a civilian weather balloon. But this serves as a very prominent example of just how brazen China is in its espionage efforts, how wide ranging these efforts are in that they use not only sophisticated satellites, but also much less sophisticated balloons and how adamantly they lie about their actions and intentions. In addition, it would seem that our own government isn't all that serious as well. Throughout the balloon incident, the Biden administration seemed to respond slowly, ineffectively, and seem to be much more worried about PR than national security. So what's going on here? What are the ways that the Chinese Communist Party is active right here in our country? Why is it allowed to continue and what do we do about it?"

To answer these questions, I talk to a man who knows the subject well, to put it lightly.

Michael Pillsbury: I'm Michael Pillsbury. I'm a newly appointed senior fellow for China strategy.

Guiney: Michael Pillsbury is one of the world's leading experts on the Chinese Communist Party. He's worked for multiple senate committees, government agencies and presidential administrations. He's also the author of a bestselling book, The Hundred Year Marathon: China's Secret Strategy to Replace America As The Global Superpower. You're a little unique in that on your Wikipedia page, your name is also written in Chinese. First of all, I understand that you speak Chinese and second, how do you say Michael Pillsbury in Chinese?

Pillsbury: Pillsbury in Chinese has to be tailored to the person. Everybody who gets a name in China, it's either the sound of their name or the name can have some meaning. So in my case, I studied Chinese for more than two years without speaking any English during that time in Taiwan and some Chinese there. Again, my name [foreign language 00:04:58] Pillsbury. It means bringing good luck to the state. So you can have sound or you can have meaning. And in my case, I've been in the US government off and on for 40 years. So I'm a kind of government official who worked on China.

Guiney: How did you decide that you wanted to study China?

Pillsbury: At the time I was an undergraduate at Stanford, the government was saying that the war in Vietnam is to stop China. So China was already a center of attention. Later on it changed in '71, '72 to being our friend and ally in the Cold War, and that is when all the programs began where we'd be helping China in every possible way. We built up the largest embassy in the world in Beijing. Many, many people learned Chinese in order to be able to help China. This included by the way, the so-called gain of function research program that Dr. Fauci has been under pressure to reveal. So in every possible way, the US government began to help China just across the board, that was part of the Cold War strategy.
Even Ronald Reagan, and I reveal some declassified top secret documents he signed, even Ronald Reagan called it so-called communist China after he visited in 1984 and began selling weapons to China, including torpedoes for the submarines, a number of other weapons systems, upgrading their jet fighters. The whole government was focused on how can we help China become strong. In those days it was against the Soviet Union. But of course when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990 and '91, the policy was not changed and we continued to help China grow strong.

Guiney: Something that Dr. Roberts mentioned, something that we hear around the building a good bit is that we got China wrong, that this was the wrong approach. What do you think has turned us around policy-wise on China?

Pillsbury: I don't think the turnaround has been very extensive. There are still a majority of people who work inside our government who do not think we got China wrong. They think we got China right and they just have to try more to assist China and things will get better. This group includes by his speeches, Senator, former Secretary of State John Kerry, who's convinced that climate change depends entirely on US China cooperation. So it's wrong to say that we all think we got China wrong. Some people did. There's been somewhat of a reversal, but it's still a relatively small voice, that The Heritage Foundation is joining now, that say not only did we get China wrong, we are still helping them and we've got to reassess everything we're doing.

Guiney: Your book is A Hundred Year Marathon: China's Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower. You have a whole book to explain this idea, but if you had to, what is it about China's strategy that makes it a 100 year marathon?

Pillsbury: Well, they decided very early on that they'd made huge mistakes before. The Great Leap Forward in 1958, many millions of people were killed. They had the idea of we'll make steel in our backyard blast furnaces and we'll force all of our peasants to have cafeteria lunch together to save on food expenses. It was a disaster. It set them back years. They tried a couple other approaches that didn't work. They tried the Soviet model, it didn't work for them.
So in the late seventies, early eighties, they got onto the idea that if we take it slow, if we budget or assume it will take a hundred years, and these are the kinds of things we have to do to become the number one country in the world. And that decision to go for slowness included the idea that we will not alarm the Americans or any other power. They denied any ambition to replace America. They got Americans write books, how China just intends to be one country among many. Don't worry about it. This was probably the most brilliant aspect of their long-term strategy, a focus on making sure as few Americans as possible ever wake up until China is the number one power in the world and then it's too late.

Guiney: So in January, of course the news cycle is taken over by this incident with a Chinese spy balloon. For people who aren't familiar, what happened and what were you thinking when you saw those events unfold?

Pillsbury: Well, the Chinese spy balloon episode is a very good example of how China and China's friends can explain away pretty much anything. Very quickly after the spy balloon was identified, the Chinese government came online round the world and said, "This was a weather balloon that's been blown off course." And they stuck to that line all the way through the next week. Then when it was shot down by U.S. Air Force Fighter planes, the Chinese condemned that as an illegal act and they stuck to their guns and it's a number of Americans agree with this.

Our Air Force admitted publicly, the chief of staff of the Air Force, that our radar defense was not properly tuned to detect the balloon as it came over. So you got an admission that even the Air Force Air Defense radar system is not properly tuned, is the word they use for it. It's kind of a euphemism, but not focused on catching this kind of spy balloon. That to me illustrates my main point that we still don't see China as an adversary.

Now, many people were shocked. They said, "How can this happen?" And the government began to release the fact that the balloon could maneuver. It wasn't just helplessly off course, but it can and did maneuver and then loiter over some of our most sensitive nuclear weapons facilities, our ICBM fields in Montana, our B2 bomber base in Missouri. So this is what kind of appears to some people to be a deliberate effort by China to collect our nuclear force weaknesses, even as they apparently are going to try to match us or even increase the number of nuclear weapons that they have, greater than America and Russia. So this is really earthquake for strategic thinkers that China's going for nuclear equality or nuclear inferiority, make making us nuclear inferior, and the spy balloon may have been part of a larger effort to do that. But again, the important thing is many people thought this was harmless and nothing really should be done about it.

Guiney: Is it a precedented event? I mean, it seems just shocking, kind of the idea that over the domestic United States that there would be a spy device, a spy balloon like this. Is this a precedented event

Pillsbury: It's unprecedented. But the main thing is when the COVID virus was discovered and lockdown began in Wuhan, but the Chinese government allowed travelers to go out, millions of travelers to leave Wuhan and go out around the world, around China, that was a real shock. People thought at the time, well, how can the government do this? But we now are almost three years later, no investigation. China got away with just finessing the WHO team that went there, no punishment. Talk and talk and talk about, oh, we have to have China paid reparations. They've killed a million Americans, but no actual action and still no actual examination of the files at the Wuhan Laboratory to see what if anything went wrong and how was it released. So the balloon incident and the COVID incident are very similar. They produce a lot of kind of cheap talk about Chinese intentions, but no actual action, no actual follow through.

Guiney: Do we have other evidence of bio-warfare or biotechnology that could potentially be threatening, acting within the United States?

Pillsbury: In the case of the bio-warfare allegations, some scholars have found telltale evidence that there are military research going on at the Wuhan Laboratory for example. Some articles have been found where the Chinese talk about biological warfare, but to actually prove it and actually take action against it, that is just impossible right now because of the Chinese secrecy. They simply won't let Americans or UN personnel either, into the laboratory.

The United States has several times raised the issue that China's violating something called the Biological Weapons Convention. It's kind of treaty that says you have to explain all biological warfare projects that you've had, including ourselves. The Chinese refuse to do that, and then they counterattack. Several times they've said that the COVID virus and other biological weapons are being built by the Americans 50 miles north of Washington DC at Fort Dietrich, and they've demanded an investigation of Fort Dietrich. So they're on the offensive and they have Americans who are gullible enough to believe them. I'm quite pessimistic about whether we'll ever get to the bottom of the COVID virus international episode. Dr. Fauci seems to be bulletproof.

Guiney: So in the last episode of Heritage Explains, we touched on a lot of things. One of the things that Dr. Roberts mentioned was the prevalence of CCP lobbyists who were working here in Washington at the federal government and then also at state governments. How big of a threat is that?

Pillsbury: It's extremely important. It's a good example of the larger problem of taking no action. I would say for at least five years now, a number of voices, articles, even books have focused on the Chinese information warfare and lobbying campaign. If you zero in on the actual problem, what you find is there's a law in the books back from the thirties saying that if you're a foreign agent and you're paid to lobby the American Congress or the American public, you must register. It's very easy to register. You do it online. Then everybody can see that the documents you produce are from a foreign government.
There's a loophole. The loophole says you must have a written contract from the foreign government saying, "I will lobby for China." And then you submit this written contract and you must be paid under the contract. So very few people do that. Instead, what happens is you get billionaires, and by the way, China has more billionaires now than America does. You get billionaires, you get large companies who lobby for China, testify openly in the Chinese interest, but they say, "There's no contract. We're not being paid directly to do this. Yes, we're making a profit of millions of dollars, but we're not going to register because of the law having this loophole."
Now that loophole could be fixed easily. Jim Jordan, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, his Senate counterpart, I was the Senate staffer, in two weeks you could pass a law saying lobbyists must register if they are receiving profit or benefit of some kind, let's say greater than X amount of money. But that's not being done. There's no hearing scheduled. There's no legislation to do that. The FBI's talked about how this would be a good idea, but nobody follows through. So I predict very little will happen. There will more talk about Chinese lobbyists are getting away with murder, isn't that terrible? And then nothing will happen.

Guiney: Why not?

Pillsbury: It's the reason The Heritage Foundation has produced this report of a hundred recommendation. There's no master scorecard. There's nobody keeping track of if a senator or house member comes on television and says, "This is a terrible thing. I've introduced legislation today." When I was a Senate staffer, that meant you had to get co-sponsors. You can get as many as half of the House, half of the Senate to be your co-sponsors. Then legislation passes quickly. Most of the legislation about China in the last five years, I did a survey of this, almost all of it has fewer than five co-sponsors, House or Senate. In other words, it never passes.

But even worse is you get a lot of attention just for introducing a piece of legislation. It used to be called showboating, where you go on television, tell a million people, "I just introduced a bill today to bring China to its knees and I demand an investigation of what happened in the Wuhan laboratory." And the news host says, "Oh, that's wonderful. You're a great hero." And there's never a follow up story. A month later, how many co-sponsors do you have? Did you have a hearing? Did it pass? Did the president sign it? That's all just ignored. So the member of the House or Senate it these days is giving credit for this kind of showboating when there's no follow through later on. That's what The Heritage Report will permit us to do is to see what actually is happening along this long list of a hundred recommendations of various types.

Guiney: Can you talk a little bit-

Pillsbury: We're the first to do this, but Heritage is the first organization to do this. And in other fields, you pick a field like abortion or income tax cuts or increasing the defense budget. Lots of organizations in Washington monitor how you vote on key legislation. Then they can say, "This person's a left-wing liberal, this person's a conservative." We don't do that for China. So the public, the TV news hosts don't know who really does anything effective on China.

Guiney: What does the lobbying by these folks look like? Are they directly approaching members of Congress? How do they wind up actually affecting governance?

Pillsbury: One of the most specific ways is they develop a counter-argument for anything that's proposed to be done against China. This is often very clever. There'll be a proposal, I'll give you a good example, it just happened the last few months. For several years has been outcry that the American Army was buying its drones from China, and the drones have a communication link you can turn on that reports everything the drone finds back to China. Same thing with our farmers. Large numbers of drones by American police departments were being purchased from China. So there was an effort to say, "This has got to stop." It got into the House and Senate, then into the conference committee on the National Defense Authorization Act, and somebody mysteriously removed it from the act without having to reveal their name. So it was seen as a problem. It was acted on, it was put in legislation, at the last minute, it was mysteriously removed.

You tell me, how did the lobbyists do that? They have access to our political process legally. In many cases, it's former senators and former congressmen who got hired by Huawei or different Chinese companies. It's not illegal. Unless the law has changed you can hire a former congressman or senator to go into the floor of the House or Senate, use his past privilege to do that, and talk down or block legislation.

Guiney: It's just crazy.

Pillsbury: It's not crazy. It's legal and the more people go on TV and say, "This is a terrible thing," but don't introduce a bill to stop it or to change the definition of lobbying, the worse it's going to get.

Guiney: So in terms of this focus that the CCP has had on American institutions, another one that we focused on a lot here at Heritage is American universities. Can you talk about that?

Pillsbury: Sure. I have a whole chapter on it in my book, The Hundred Year Marathon. One of the steps they took was quite legal. They would go to American physics and chemistry and other technology departments of universities and offer a large amount of money if you provide China or a Chinese company with new discoveries in science quickly, on a sort of right of first refusal. Many, many American universities agreed to this. Millions of dollars were involved.

There was a second program where Chinese or Chinese Americans here would be paid a large amount of money to go back to China, let's say for a summer vacation, and work on Chinese science and technology transfers while they were doing this. That in itself was not ill, there's a third set of measures that dates back more than 30 years that the National Science Foundation and other US government agencies are required by diplomatic agreement to provide all new American scientific discoveries to China. We have a so-called minister counselor in our embassy in Beijing who does this. The National Science Foundation opened an office in China to transfer all these scientific discoveries quickly and see what the Chinese wanted.

Sometimes they were known to complain that they'd read about a new scientific breakthrough in an American journal and it hadn't been provided to China fast enough. President Trump closed that office, but the promises to share all of our science with China still continue. That's an easy fix, but no one's done it. It's one of the areas where lobbyists work really hard to say, "Oh, we can't interfere with science. We have to keep these agreements in place." See what I mean about the problem of taking specific action?

Guiney: Also, there's the issue of Confucius Institutes within some of these organizations. What is a Confucius Institute?

Pillsbury: A Confucius Institute is an effort where a new ministry in China went around the world, to universities and said, we will give you, let's say 4 million a year if you started Chinese language training program. Stanford did this, for example, my undergraduate school. And then subtle influence would begin to be exerted. Don't invite, you're inviting the Dali Lama to give a speech. Please don't do that. Or you might lose the $4 million.

So they had hundreds of these so-called Confucius Institutes and they taught history in China, Chinese history and philosophy in a way that made China look very benign. Again, they specialized in Confucius, who stood for respecting your parents, always telling the truth, being benign and benevolent to all humankind. Their message was, this is what China is. We are the Confucius Nation and we love Confucius.

So this undermined any effort to say China is doing bad things in the South China Sea. Its nuclear weapons program is drastically increasing. The COVID issue, all that would be undercut by what you might call the benign image that the Confucius Institutes offered in exchange for money and undercover of just being a Chinese language program. Who could be against that?
So when pressure was put on universities not to do this, the Chinese are very clever. They just changed the names of the institutes. They don't call it Confucius Institute anymore. This was never really stopped and it continues even today.

Guiney: So they're still in place at American major universities all over the country?

Pillsbury: Yes, in many cases. There were some institutes that were closed but even just changed their name. at one point, Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary of Education sent a letter to universities asking them nicely to consider this may not be such a good idea. But it didn't have much effect and it's part of my overall point that we simply cannot as a country, take effective action against China because they're so deeply embedded in our system. And frankly, they have so much money that they can portray themselves as a benign, helpful, cooperative power and that only a few people believe in the China threat theory or they use a phrase often to have Cold War mentality. This is considered a great sin by China and China's friends to have a Cold War mentality.
So I think Hudson, the point was to deliberately choose this phrase, winning the new Cold War. So we can advertise to friends in China that there is a cold war going on. We have to wake up and begin to participate in it, or we're going to lose our country's primacy in global affairs.

Guiney: There's also been a lot of conversation recently about Chinese nationals who are buying up land around US military installations. Why are they doing that and why is that allowed?

Pillsbury: Well, it's allowed because we haven't changed the laws. Now, some governors have talked about it. There was a shock effect when the media first exposed this and sometimes it was done, in one case it was done by the US Air Force. The US Air Force was getting very concerned, I think quite correctly, about these Chinese purchases of land near sensitive air bases. But it's completely legal and there's no federal entity that even keeps track of it. So the media had to find out, well, how many acres are involved? And in some cases it's front companies or there's a partner with the Chinese.

So it's another example of where you would think within two weeks a law would be passed saying you can't, no foreign country, especially if it begins with the letter C, can buy land near sensitive American military bases. There's no legislation proposed. It hasn't been considered. As far as I know, they haven't even been in a hearings in Congress. It's one of the hundred recommendations we make. But you'll notice the Chinese already have the drop on us. In many cases they'll have a local mayor or local county commissioner come on TV and say, "This is a good thing. We like it. It's good for business." So you see my pessimism, unless we get more self-aware of what China's up to, we're simply not going to be able to fight back.

Guiney: What would be the potential benefit for these purchases? What are they looking to accomplish?

Pillsbury: The main thing is wartime benefit. Most people can't even imagine a war between the US and China. So they can't understand and they can't accept that some measures that China's taking, such as the balloon loitering over our nuclear missile silos, they can't imagine that the Chinese have thought ahead already to how they would have to win a war with us. So a lot of things that we see don't make sense because in and of itself, selling farmland to a foreign country doesn't seem like it's a crime. It hasn't been made a crime. So you get into the issue of fairly quickly of what would a war with China look like? How could it start? Who would win it? Where might it take place? And this takes you down a whole new area that many think tanks have not gone into, but The Heritage Foundation has, how to win a war with China, not a cold war, but a hot war.

Guiney: There's also been a lot of talk about TikTok, big data, Chinese based apps that are currently being used on American devices across the country. Can you talk about these applications and the threat that they potentially could pose? For instance, we've been talking a lot at Heritage about banning TikTok. What's going on with all this?

Pillsbury: Well, this goes back to the Trump administration, which had a number of meetings about banning TikTok roughly three years ago. It's very well described in a memoir by Peter Navarro where he gives the various positions of President Trump's cabinet ministers, some wanted to close TikTok, some did not. Steve Mnuchin Treasury Secretary came up with a proposal to have a American company buy TikTok. There are all kinds of problems with that, but it blocked any action.

So we're now three years later, this illustrates my main thesis that obvious steps should be taken were not taken, first of all by the Trump administration being divided badly over China. Several memoirs, by the way, make this point in addition to Peter Navarro's. But secondly, China fights back and China and its friends tell everybody, "Oh, this is just a harmless device. 150 million people use it. Only China threat theory, that kind of crazy people think this is any kind of problem."

And to understand its effect on us, you have to go into the issue of is China a friend or not? And that seems to be what's stopping the TikTok legislation from passing. There's two versions of it now. One is John Thune and Mark Warner giving Commerce Department the authority to do something if it wishes, about these social media companies, it's kind of a light or softer version than to actual ban TikTok. It's beginning to look like this will be another Chinese success. They're going to be able to block the complete banning of TikTok.
So it'll add to my list, along with COVID virus and many other things, where despite some people speaking out against China, ultimately we lose the policy fight because of the successful lobbying of the friends of China and frankly the kind of historical weight, inertia, the legacy of these 40 years of helping China, we still have not undone our addiction to China.

President Trump had a White House team that sent me a letter saying, "Dr. Pillsbury, we hope you'll serve and we intend to nominate you as ambassador to China for President Trump's second term." I would love to have done that, but it looks like the direction is not going to be changed until we get enough new officials working on China who share my concern and The Heritage Foundation's concern that China is a real adversary who wants to replace us in the world. That's still not the mainstream view.

In fact, you had the intelligence community directors testify in the last two or two or three weeks in front of the House and the Senate saying China wants to become a great power, but none of them said wants to become the great power. That's in many ways, separates people now is what are China's long term ambitions? If they're just to become a good country like America, then what happens is any effort to slow China down or block Chinese behavior gets frustrated and blocked by the friends of China, who I think remain in control of China policy.

Guiney: Obviously at Heritage, we're very concerned about the humanitarian crisis, the state of the southern border, but people don't always realize that China has a role down there as well. Can you talk about how China exploits the crisis at our southern border?

Pillsbury: Well, this is one of the specific recommendations and The Heritage Report. The Chinese involved in this providing precursor chemicals, providing money laundering to some of the Mexican cartels, or the Chinese have a committee where they meet with us and they're supposed to be talking about controlling fentanyl. These things don't work, and what we recommended was specific sanctions on specific Chinese, who our intelligence community knows by name, are involved in the fentanyl trade and activities along the border. This is one of the most important recommendations, I think, but it's also a good test. If we can't sanction Chinese who are involved in cross-border fentanyl trade, then it shows the weakness of our approach to China and frankly, a victory by our opponents. It's one of the things that I'll be most closely watching myself in terms of a hundred recommendations, what specifically happens on the fentanyl front and where the pessimism is the sort of order of the day.
The Chinese decided to punish us and the Biden administration for Nancy Pelosi's trip to Taiwan. They broke off all meetings of the Drug Narcotics Control Committee in Beijing where they were talking about the fentanyl problem. So that's kind of punishment of us, and we took no counter measures. We just said, "Gee, we hope you'll restart the fentanyl committee talks." That's a pretty weak response for a program that's killing so many Americans along the border.

Guiney: So can you give the layman's breakdown on what is fentanyl? Why is China providing chemicals to produce it? What would be the advantage for them?

Pillsbury: Well, the advantage for China is their grand strategy over the last 50 years. They made a decision together with the World Bank, and a lot of economists that we send over, frankly, including Nobel Prize winning economists. They decided that export of almost anything would cause Chinese economic growth to skyrocket. That foreign trade being expanded and exports being frankly in any zone that any other country might say no would still be good for China. So a lot of countries will refuse to export the precursors of fentanyl, but not the Chinese.

They took the same approach in their grand strategy to foreign direct investment. They decided in the early eighties they could get foreign companies, mainly American companies, to come into China, build high tech factories. The cell phones was a good example, but there're many others, that they could dominate the world in technology because they would absorb or buy that technologies from these American companies.

They did this in biochemicals, biopharmaceuticals. They're the number one producer of vitamins and many kinds of medicines around the world today because of this decision 40 years ago. So it's not that they just set out to say, how many American teenagers can we kill with fentanyl? It's that they have this amoral direct investment and export strategy, and this works very well for them. They're now almost 80% our economic size and in the case of the Soviet Union and the Cold War, the Soviets never got to more than about 30% our size. The Japanese who we fought in World War II never got to more than 10% our size. That was a three year war. So the Chinese have been brilliant to try to sneak up and surpass America in overall economic strength through almost any kind of foreign direct investment they can attract and almost any kind of a thing they can export. That's the bottom line of what's been going on for 30 years.

Guiney: So they're willing to sell essentially a poison, fentanyl, precursors for fentanyl to the Mexican cartels just because it's a cash cow.

Pillsbury: Yes, and because there's no sanction on it. We have not done anything about it. We considered it a big breakthrough when they even agreed to have a committee to talk about it in Beijing. President Trump persuaded Xi Jinping to put fentanyl on a controlled substance list in China, which of course we do. That it's a narcotic, and that was considered a big breakthrough at the time, but this obviously was not enough.

Guiney: Are there any other issues within the United States that I've missed here?

Pillsbury: Well, the main issue I think is the structure of our government. In the 1947, as the Cold War began, legislation was passed. The president created the CIA, didn't exist before, created the National Security Council, didn't exist before, created the office of the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Air Force. Huge changes were made in our government to deal with the Soviet threat, and ultimately we won the Cold War.

In the case of China, we're just getting started, and there's been not a single new organization of any kind set up to deal with the China threat. Senator Marco Rubio proposed four years ago something which so far has gone nowhere, that there should be a technology czar in the White House who keeps track of high-tech investment, high-tech exports that go to China that help them build their military. Great idea, right? He got about 10 co-sponsors. The whole thing went nowhere. So we're still doing, our government still has the same number of people, the same organizations that deal with China as we used to have when they were our friends and allies during the Cold War. That to me is just a disaster. It's one of the areas we talk about in The Heritage Foundation 100 recommendations that I hope will be tracked in the years to come.

Guiney: So my big takeaway, what we keep coming back to is that we have a lot of problems that affect us domestically with China, and the solutions to them are legislative and not particularly complex, but we lack the political will at this point to really put them into practice. Is that a fair assessment?

Pillsbury: That's fair, but I wouldn't use the word political will. I would use the word accountability of senators and house members who are getting away with proposing ideas that look good, and then they don't devote any further attention to actual implementation, finding co-sponsors getting things passed. When I was the Senate staffer, we clearly knew who were what were called the showboaters, who introduced legislation just for the effect on the media and their home state. "I'm doing this. Isn't that wonderful?"
And the other group of senators and congressmen who wanted to have a success, they wanted something to be done. One really good example was Radio Free Asia had to be created. We didn't have one. We wanted it to broadcast in Tibetan, Uyghur, Mandarin, Cantonese to tell the story what's going wrong in China. I was one of the staffers involved. We got Joe Biden, Clayborn, Pell, Teddy Kennedy, all the liberals to sign as co-sponsors, but then we got Jesse Helms, Oren Hatch, all the conservatives to sign. It passed. The administration opposed it, but we overrode and now there's a Radio Free Asia. But that took several years of hard work, and you have to have bipartisan desire to win.

So it's not just political will I would say, it's no one's looking at what exactly has to be done and how much progress is being made and who's doing it. That's the purpose of the new Heritage Foundation wanting the cold war report. It's kind of a blueprint for how we can keep track of progress, or what I fear the worst, no progress and this continuing policy paralysis we have towards China.

Guiney: We've talked about how embedded the CCP is in our system. Are you optimistic or pessimistic about where the United States is going to wind up on this?

Pillsbury: Where I would be optimistic is if any senior Americans involved in the China relationship would confess they were wrong. I have done so. I had a number one bestselling book admitting sort of point by point where my advice to six different presidents was wrong. The key guy to do that still won't do it. His name's Henry Kissinger. He'll be a hundred years old at the end of April. He has fastly argued that, "Well, we have to cooperate with China and getting along." Several books have come out about how he financially benefited enormously over a 40 year period from China. If Henry Kissinger would speak up on his hundredth birthday and say, "I got it wrong. China's on track to replace us. I thought they'd be our friends forever. I was wrong." That would have an enormous impact. I put the chances of that very slim.

But if he and others would go back over what I argue in Hundred Year Marathon, take it seriously, that these are American government documents where I show how this plan was pursued to make China the number one power. If others would stop now and say we were wrong, we want to do what The Heritage Foundation recommends in its hundred recommendations. That would go a long way toward turning things around. I'm afraid the chances of Henry Kissinger recanting are close to zero.
It's important to be pessimistic so that we Americans can realize the depth of the problem and start trying to turn things around. It doesn't mean in the long term we shouldn't be optimistic, but we're still in the process of waking up, I think.

Guiney: If this was the end of a standard interview here in the United States, I would say Michael Pillsbury, thank you so much for joining us. How would you sign off on an interview in Chinese?

Pillsbury: Oh, the Chinese language has many ways to say goodbye. One of the simplest is [foreign language 00:39:16], it means, see you again. [foreign language 00:39:17] is again, [foreign language 00:39:18] is see. That implies we have a relationship that's ongoing. This isn't just our last interview. [foreign language 00:39:24], see you again in the future. That's how the Chinese put do it.

Guiney: Well, Michael Pillsbury [foreign language 00:39:30].
We'd like to thank Michael Pillsbury for sharing his insight with us on this show. If you'd like to dig more deeply into this issue, you can find the nitty-gritty details in The Heritage Foundation's report, Winning the Cold War, A Plan to Counter China, available in the show notes. Mike wrote the afterward of that document, and he gives a more detailed outline of the way forward in regards to China.
On next week's episode, we're going to zoom out beyond the borders of the United States and look at what China is up to on the world stage. We're going to talk about semiconductors, precious metals, climate, supply chains, and more global topics. Between now and then, if a Chinese spy balloon comes floating past your door, make sure you tell it-

Gonzalez: I have work to do.

Guiney: That's it for this time. We'll see you next week.

Heritage Explains is brought to you by more than half a million members of The Heritage Foundation. It's written and produced by Mark Guiney, Lauren Evans and John Popp. Production assistance by Alexa Walker and Jeff Smith. Special thanks to Dr. Kevin Roberts.